Classic Beef Chili

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This beef chili is melt-in-your-mouth tender, thick, and rich. Serve it over rice or scoop it up with tortilla chips.

Beef chili is a cool weather mainstay at my house, and this is my go-to recipe. It’s melt-in-your-mouth tender, thick, and rich – perfect to serve over rice or pasta or scoop up with tortilla chips. I don’t add any beans, as my kids tend to eat around them, but feel free to add a can of your favorite drained beans for the last half hour of cooking, if you like. Note that the recipe calls for 85% lean ground beef. Please don’t use extra-lean beef or drain off the fat after browning the meat; the fat bastes the meat during cooking, adding richness and flavor, and you can skim it all off at the end. Chili is a meal unto itself, but you can never go wrong with cornbread or chips and guacamole on the side.

What You’ll Need To Make Classic Beef Chili

chili ingredientsStep-by-Step Instructions

Begin by combining the ground beef, salt, baking soda, and water in a large bowl.

how to make ground beef chili

Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit for 20 minutes. The baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and accelerate browning. (I borrowed this tenderizing trick from Cook’s Illustrated; it works like a charm.)

how to make ground beef chili

Meanwhile, chop the veggies.

veggies-1

I use a food processor to speed this up, but it’s fine to chop by hand too.

veggies-2

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions, garlic, and red pepper.

how to make ground beef chili

Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

how to make ground beef chili

Add the beef and increase the heat to high.

how to make ground beef chiliCook, stirring with wooden spoon to break up the meat, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

how to make ground beef chili

The beef will release a lot of fat and liquid — do not drain it; you’ll skim the fat off at the end. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon.

how to make ground beef chiliCook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant.

how to make ground beef chili

Add the cornmeal, beef broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses.

how to make ground beef chili Bring to a boil.

how to make ground beef chili

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Skim any excess fat off of the surface of the chili — there will be quite a bit.

how to make ground beef chiliStir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with accompaniments and enjoy!

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Classic Beef Chili

This beef chili is melt-in-your-mouth tender, thick, and rich. Serve it over rice or scoop it up with tortilla chips.

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes
Total Time: 3 Hours

Ingredients

  • 2.5 pounds 85% lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (or 2 small), minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon molasses, such as Grandma's Original (optional, if you like your chili a little sweet)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from 1 lime

For Serving (optional)

  • Cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, cheese, scallions

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, salt, baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of water. Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit on the counter for 20 minutes.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the beef and increase the heat to high; cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break the meat into ¼-inch pieces, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes. (The beef will release a lot of liquid -- do not drain it; you'll skim the fat off at the end.)
  3. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant.
  4. Stir in the cornmeal, broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
  5. Skim any excess fat off the surface of the chili. (There will be quite a bit; don't worry about getting all of it, as it adds flavor.) Stir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. For a thinner chili, you can add a bit of water. To thicken the chili, continue simmering, uncovered, until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Make Ahead: Cool slightly, and then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost it in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 655
  • Fat: 44 g
  • Saturated fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 28 g
  • Sugar: 15 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 39 g
  • Sodium: 1711 mg
  • Cholesterol: 134 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • So, baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, just another form of salt. Unfortunately I didn’t remember this before adding almost 1 tsp per 2.5 lbs of meat for a 10 lbs of meat batch of chili, per these instructions. Plus the 2 tsp of salt it also recommends. I’m disabled so cook large amts then freeze for individual meals so I won’t need to cook every day. It did tenderize the meat. However I noticed severe swelling & couldn’t figure out what was going on w my body. Finally i realized it was the very large quantities of sodium I was eating in every serving of chili. What a bummer because I am going to either have to give it all away or throw it away, because I literally can’t eat it. I tried adding more low-sodium veggies, but all the sodium is deeply cooked into the meat so it doesn’t seem to have helped the situation. I hope my comment helps warn others about the extremely high levels of sodium in this recipe. Please see the nutritional info, 1711mg per single serving. Our total daily sodium intake shouldn’t exceed 2300mg. I don’t have the means to lose this much food this month. It is what it is, but just remember baking soda is salt lol. Best of luck & happy cooking.

    • — Amy on September 2, 2022
    • Reply
  • Great chili. The tip for “conditioning” the beef with soda is really good. The texture is much nicer.

    • — Cindy on August 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn, the Beef Tenderizing trick is a game changer. Incredible tip. Thank you! I wonder–can it be used to also tenderize ground turkey and chicken? Would love your expert opinion.

    • — Diane on July 27, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Diane, Glad you found it helpful! I’ve never tried it on turkey or chicken. so I’m not sure if it would make a difference. Please LMK what you think if you try it!

      • — Jenn on July 28, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thanks, Jenn. Promise to let you know. Was telling a friend about this tenderizing tip–made her wonder if it would also work when preparing hamburgers for the grill or skillet, etc. My guess is it’s only good for ground beef as I didn’t see it mentioned in any of your burger recipes…Would love your thoughts.

        • — Diane on August 9, 2022
        • Reply
        • Hi Diane, Because I usually use something else in hamburgers to tenderize them (for example a mixture of bread and milk in this recipe), I haven’t tried the baking soda method with them.

          • — Jenn on August 10, 2022
          • Reply
          • Got it. Thanks for letting me know. Will use your burger recipe and communicate this info. If we ever try the baking soda on them instead, I’ll let you know the results. Thanks Again, Jenn. Always learning from you. 🙂

            • — Diane on August 10, 2022
  • Ok, where are the beans in this recipe? Isn’t chili all about the beans?

    • — Caesar on July 22, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Caesar, feel free to add a can of your favorite drained beans for the last half hour of cooking, if you like. 🙂

      • — Jenn on July 23, 2022
      • Reply
  • Does salt affect anything but the taste? You’ve sold me on the need for baking soda to ensure moist hamburger, but I have to reduce total sodium given hubby’s heart condition. We’ve gotten used to the taste of un- or under-salted food and guests know to add their own salt.

    • — Macsmom on July 9, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi, the salt won’t impact anything other than the taste so feel free to reduce as needed. 🙂

      • — Jenn on July 10, 2022
      • Reply
  • Excellent. This is our new favorite chili. Perfect consistency and flavor. Thank you.

    • — Patticakes in Palos Verdes on April 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • I really like this chili no matter what name you put on it 😉.
    Love to hear from folks that screwed with the recipe by adding beans. I’m thinking of Pinto Beans myself. I going to rinse the beans and add one can the first time around, and then add another if I think I’d prefer it that way. I’m going to start by putting the beans in for in for the last half an hour and see if that’s enough.

    Sure would like to hear some advice in advance…

    • — Michael T. on March 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Michael, I think that pinto beans are a great option for chili. You actually can put them in just for the last few minutes of cooking time so they get heated through. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on March 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • We’re Texans and love your chili! Try this! It is so well flavored without being hot. The hint of cinnamon and molasses balance out the spice. ❤️ Thank you for another great recipe!

    • — Mimi on February 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • Oh no. I don’t have molasses. Should I run out and get it or is their a sub?

    • — Amy on February 21, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Amy, It’s totally fine to leave it out. If you’d like a little sweetness, a pinch or two of sugar will work.

      • — Jenn on February 21, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! This is one of my very favorite chili recipes – it is delicious! This weekend, I will be making it for a group of hungry college kids and want to double the recipe. How will that change the cooking time? Thanks so much – I just LOVE your blog and both of your cookbooks!

    • — Jill on February 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoy it, Jill! I think the cook time should be about the same, maybe 15 to 20 min longer. I would just cook it til the consistency looks right and the meat is nice and tender.

      • — Jenn on February 20, 2022
      • Reply
  • One of my winter ‘go to’ recipes- my guys love it. Two are allergic to beans so when I first tried it and they loved it, well, there just isn’t a better feeling. Thanks so much Jen. You always come through!

    • — Mary on February 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I’ve always used a chili mix before, but never again. This was yummy, just the perfect balance of spices. I usually like things on the very spicy side, but I followed your recipe exactly. Delish as is.
    My friends that I shared some with now want the recipe, even my friend that doesn’t cook.
    Thanks again for another superb recipe.

    • — Miriam Sulfaro on February 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Outstanding recipe, as always, Jenn. Like many other followers, I added beans and upped the spice level, but that’s just about personal preferences. In my opinion, the ancho and chipotle chili powders, and the cumin, are essential. My new go-to chili recipe. Thanks for a keeper.

    • — Pam on February 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • I should have known that this recipe would be just plain awful: who puts chili over rice (gross)
    uses vegetable oil, cinnamon, no beans?? I had to keep adding more chili powder and other spices..it is bland..I added kidney beans to try to salvage it.

    • — Gail on February 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • I wish I could give this recipe 3.5 stars. I wasn’t crazy about it, though it was a very good quality chili. I will say that I did not have ancho chili powder so I used regular and that might have been the problem. I had to keep adding more spices because I found it not “chili” tasting enough and it was a bit too beefy for me (in taste). I did add kidney beans because for me, I NEED kidney beans in my chili. I will try this recipe in the future a few times before I decide it’s not my favourite chili recipe, adding ancho and seeing if it changes things. I did make Jenn’s cornbread recipe which is an absolute MUST to accompany this chili. Also: after a day it tasted a lot better.

    • — Julie Godwin on February 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn, will it make a big difference in the taste if I just use regular chili powder instead of the ancho & chipotle? I know chili powders can vary a lot.

    • — Debbie C on February 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Debbie, it’s fine to replace the ancho and chipotle chili powders with regular chili powder. The ancho chili powder adds a little heat, so feel free to add a pinch or 2 of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on February 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • Made it for dinner and was sooooo delicious!!! Added a can of black beans for more fibre. Everyone loved it! Thanks for the recipe!

    • — Edith on February 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • How many Cups is 1 serving?

    • — Remi on February 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • I would guesstimate a serving is about 2 cups. 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • This is by far the best chili I have ever had. My husband said “Now THAT tastes like chili!”. Thank you so much for this recipe. I didn’t change a thing, just added beans.

    • — Becky Barrett on February 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • Yowza! This one made it onto my wife’s Facebook page. Again with the perfect spice balancing. You rock with sparkles! Using the Test Kitchen technique really delivered the tender.

    I enjoy improvisational, intuitive cooking. Not reliable, but fun. I’ve also come to enjoy my wife’s pleasure and relaxation when she knows I’m following one of your recipes. Thanks again for helping this husband-homemaker advance toward Certified HearthMaster status.

    • — Glenn Simpson on February 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Wow! I’ve finally found my go-to chili recipe–the best I’ve ever tasted! I love the complex flavors (cinnamon and molasses, oh yes!) the richness, and the thickness. Lime juice at the end adds brightness and just takes it all over the top. Spice level is perfect too. Now, please excuse me now as I go toss out all my other chili recipes 🙂

    • — Susan on February 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • We had family over for football last weekend, so I made a pot of this chili and added a poblano and a can of mild chili beans that I had in the pantry. It turned out great! My husband usually makes chili without a recipe and is rarely happy with it…lol. I served the chili with various toppings and a pan of cornbread. Everyone thought it was delicious!

    • — Jody on February 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • love, love and love this recipe. I made this last night for picky stinky people. 🙂 they loved it and I will only make this version of chili from now on and forever. thank you so much for giving my family the best of all tastiest meals ever. I never go wrong cooking from your page, it’s always a success.

    • — Shirola on February 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hey Jen,
    I cannot find any chipotle chili powder. Any suggestions for a substitute? Please advise when you have a chance!

    • — Staci on February 4, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Staci, You can replace the chipotle chili powder with regular chili powder. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 4, 2022
      • Reply
    • I get mine from The Spice House. They have lots of chili powder options!

      • — Jody on February 4, 2022
      • Reply

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